Nearly three dozen UGA students gained a greater understanding of the Athens community during a recent, daylong tour organized by the Leadership UGA program.
In January, the students visited Action Ministries’ community kitchen where they talked with volunteers helping Athens’ homeless population, followed by a stop at the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce for a panel discussion with representatives from the school system, hospitals and government. The day concluded at the Lyndon House Arts Center, an art engagement organization that supports local art, hosts exhibits and is home to a historic museum.
Brian Heredia, a junior from Athens, most enjoyed the panel discussion, where students and leaders engaged in a conversation about various topics, including the transportation system, bringing high wage jobs to the community and collaborations with university officials.
“I liked how the leaders brought up issues that they see in the community and the candid conversation we had,” Heredia said.
Kyle Anderson, the tour’s organizer and the senior coordinator of campus and community outreach in UGA’s Center for Leadership and Service, explained that the program is designed to expose the students to parts of Athens that students typically do not consider.
“The hope is that the students come away with strategies and connections for how to create change in a community, whether they stay here after graduation or go somewhere else,” Anderson said.
Leadership UGA is a cohort program for upperclassmen and graduate students focusing on leadership and community service. The program provides students opportunities to connect with local and state-wide community leaders.
Members are selected through an application process that includes recommendations from UGA faculty and staff. Currently there are 29 undergraduate and six graduate students in the program. The group meets on a monthly basis and travels to different communities around the state to engage in tours like their day in Athens.
Leadership UGA appears to be meeting its goal. Antonio Mantica, a doctoral candidate from Leesburg, described the tour as an “eye-opening experience.”
“As a student, it is very easy to think of yourself as living in the bubble of the university,” Mantica said. “This tour showed me that this community has a diverse and rich history and is filled with kind and fascinating people.”